Inauguration Day Ethics Dunces


Three of many…

Ethics Dunce: ABC’s Byron Pitts


Earlier today I wrote,

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that she was “disgusted” by all the white people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats around the Capitol yesterday. This struck me as akin to the joke about the boy who murdered his parents seeking mercy from the court because he was an orphan. African Americans, especially around D.C., have been urged and in many cases bullied to boycott everything having to do with Trump, and now people like my friend are suggesting that blacks are being excluded, proving the racism of the new President.

I actually deleted a section that said: “Just watch: some inveterate news media race-baiter will cite the abundance of whites to impugn Trump and Republicans. Which will it be?” The answer, we now know, is Byron Pitts. Virtually the entire Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the event, blacks who expressed support for Trump or even hinted that the supported the Inauguration faced shunning and threats, and this guy had the gall to say, during the ABC coverage today,

“Think about this crowd and think about the divided America. We talked about the noise of the racial divide, this is the whisper of the racial divide in America. Think back to when President Obama took office for the first time. How diverse the crowd was. You saw the rainbow of America. Today this looks like the ice cream of America. Right? It is an overwhelmingly white audience.”

What does that tell Pitts? It tells me that one segment in society is willing to put color and politics aside and support a duly elected leader, and one is not.

Ethics Dunce: George Will

Going out of his way to illustrate Clemenceau’s quip about the man who knows everything and understands nothing, Will dashed out an op-ed today that pronounced Trump‘s inaugural address  “the most dreadful” one in history. Really? I’ve read every inaugural address ever given, and most of them are unreadable, and were presumably unlistenable as well. Try this collection of Authentic Frontier Gibberish by Franklin Pierce, or this marathon speech by William Henry Harrison (which more or less killed him), or this high-minded drivel by Woodrow Wilson on his first Inauguration Day.  Earlier today in a comment thread I referenced Andrew Jackson’s first such address, wondering if the closest President to Trump in terms of  gaining power through a populist wave was similarly direct in challenging the establishment. No, Andy just lied through his teeth. Does George consider a dishonest address less dreadful than an honest one? It would seem so.

George is a smart and learned man, but also sometimes a pompous pedant, and he clearly wishes that Trump would express himself like, well, someone else. He mocks Trump’s trademark hyperbole and imprecision, with one quote:

“….an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.” Yes, all.”

Let me translate that for you George: he’s saying the public schools suck, and he’s right. Clear now?

Quick: give me a single memorable line from any Inaugural address in the last fifty years without hitting Google. Off the top of my head, I can think of three Inaugural addresses in U.S. history that mattered: Lincoln’s second, FDR’s first (“The only thing we have to fear…”) and  Kennedy’s (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”).

Trump’s matters too. He laid out clear and ambitious goals without equivocation, in language that anyone, even Will, should understand. None of it will be remembered if Trump, as most expect and I’m sure Will is certain of, falls flat on his face. This line, however, (The text is here) will be remembered if he can somehow succeed:

“We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over.”

Ethics Dunces: MSNBC

The Inauguration coverage, which I could only check into for brief spurts, was so unprofessional, unfair and unethical that it can’t even qualify as news coverage. This was an all-day Trump-bashing festival for Trump haters. In particular, the crew led by Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow continued to push the Trump as fascist smear. The low point was probably this (which I was lucky enough to miss)…

Maddow:  It’s going to be an unusual arrangement with Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, it will be an unusual triumvirate around this president. We don’t really know who will be first among those equals.”

Matthews : It’s hard to fire your son-in-law, that’s the tricky part. Although Mussolini had a great solution to that. He had them executed.”

Maddow: Jesus, Chris.

Matthews: So if I were Jared, I’d be a little careful.

Such disrespect, on a new President’s first day in office. What a hateful, biased, unprofessional place MSNBC is.


54 thoughts on “Inauguration Day Ethics Dunces

  1. Have all these people spent the last month reading up on their fascist history? These can’t be offhand quips. Interns must be searching for this stuff. Idiotic.

  2. What does that tell Pitts? It tells me that one segment in society is willing to put color and politics aside and support a duly elected leader, and one is not.

    So maybe white people are just more civil and patriotic than that other segment.

    Or maybe white people can more easily put color and politics aside because we have the privilege to do so.

    White people have the least to lose under any administration, but that’s especially true under this one. (See the complete purge of references to “civil rights” on today.)

    George is a smart and learned man, but also sometimes a pompous pedant, and he clearly wishes that Trump would express himself like, well, someone else. He mocks Trump’s trademark hyperbole and imprecision, with one quote:

    “….an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.” Yes, all.”

    Will mocked the statement because it’s easily mockable. It’s stupid, irresponsible, and false.

    Let me translate that for you George: he’s saying the public schools suck, and he’s right. Clear now?

    I’ll take a page from Churchill and say that public schools are the worst form of education, except for all the others.

    • You want to make the case that public schools are as good as when Churchill said that? Or even close? The point is that Public schools have declined into worthlessness, or even harmfulness. Pretending otherwise, like using the Churchill quote, just lets the slide continue. It’s a lot like Journalism…because we don’t like the implications of admitting it has crashed, we pretend it’s fine. Trump’s inarticulate bluntness does more good than all the eloquent lip service in denial.

      • Ok, you do realize that’s not actually the Churchill quote, right? His statement was about democracy; I was applying it to public education.

        I have no idea how to judge whether public education does a better job of preparing most students for the world today than it did in the 40s; the expectations for what a student has to do after high school have changed a LOT since then, so it feels like it would be comparing apples to oranges. Our graduation rates and college attendance rates are obviously higher now, but those weren’t necessities then.

        Trump’s pick for Sec of Ed does not want to improve public schools, she wants to siphon off funds from them and direct them to Christian indoctrination centers. She thinks students need guns to ward off bears. She has never worked in education.

        If this is who Trump thinks is qualified to improve education, it is safe to say he has no idea how to do so, and I’m not going to give him the benefit of the doubt when he says something as stupid as that public school students are “deprived of all knowledge.”

        • And no, I don’t see how that statement does any good. It’s not engagement, it’s not proposing a solution or asking educators how to solve the problems we face, it’s just blanket, divisive condemnation. Much like Trump’s ignorant grunts about “inner cities,” this is Trump appealing to tribalism and pointing wildly at problems he has no ability to solve. It’s all of a piece with his “America is currently a dangerous, jobless hellhole, and I’m gonna fix it” message, which has no bearing in reality.

          • Again, Trumpspeak. It’s clear to anyone who isn’t biased against the idea that things could be better. Hell-hole isn’t a bad description of inner Baltimore, Detroit, parts of LA, Greater St. Louis, etc.

        • I have the democracy quote on a plaque somewhere in my basement; for all I knew, Winston recycled the bit about all sorts of subjects. “Scotch is the worst beverage, except for every other beverage”…etc.

          Public schools keep getting worse, most teachers are untrustworthy, and administrators are worse. The system is broken, and pretending otherwise and throwing more money at failure is idiotic. If the teachers union opposes someone, that’s a plus.

          “All knowledge” didn’t mean “all knowledge.” Don’t you know Trumpspeak by now?

          • Public schools keep getting worse,

            Give me a metric, please, or a way to solve the problem; your comment is no more helpful than Trump’s.

            I understand Trumpspeak just fine; that doesn’t make it any more responsible or any less stupid.

            If the teachers union opposes someone, that’s a plus.

            You’re smarter than this. Unqualified means unqualified. Watch her confirmation hearing, please, and then tell me confirming her is worth it to stick it to the teachers’ unions.

            • “I have no idea how to judge whether public education does a better job of preparing most students for the world today than it did in the 40s;”

              Here is a metric that I found pretty easy to understand. I inherited the school books my grandfather received while in high school and I have compared them to the books my kids are using in high school today. No comparison.

              Both my kids are or were in advanced placement classes. The content of their studies is far inferior to the content of the classes I took in the 70’s (and no one would have mistaken me for a good student in high school).

              • My dad was a high school teacher from late 70s until early 00s, and he definitely noticed an easing of rigor and a lowering a standards.

                My mom was a secretary at an elementary school from mid 80s and still does so. She notices a decline.

                My extended family in other states who have taught and administered in various capacities for 30+ years ALL agree standards are lower and discipline is gone.

                Chris has been schooled on this before, but his favorite tactic is to pretend like he hasn’t and carry on as usual.

                • I don’t remember that conversation, tex, but if this was the kind of “schooling” I was given on this topic–anecdotes about subjective opinions–then no wonder I don’t remember it. Your second cousin’s opinions on whether standards have been lowered is not a metric. Phil’s opinion on the content of textbooks (which are relied on much more rarely these days, especially in my subject area) is not a metric.

                    • That’s…not how education works. There are definitely metrics of academic success; my profession could not function without them. These metrics change, and we are constantly evaluating which metrics are valid and which are not, but without objective standards and data, nothing gets done.

          • You said, “Public schools keep getting worse, most teachers are untrustworthy, and administrators are worse.”

            I say yes to your first and third point. As to your second point, Jack, you are totally out of line. Totally.

            Synonyms for untrustworthy… pick your favorite…

            I’m a retired teacher. My wife, Stella, teaches middle school science. We take issue with your gunslinging. You may be the marshall here, but when you state crap like this, you erode our confidence.

            I’m not saying an apology is in order, but perhaps you may wish to clarify your statement regarding teachers.

            I shot this during a rally for more teaching/less testing. Enjoy!

            • I also have pointed out that most ethicists are frauds, and also untrustworthy. Until a profession is professionalized, it is falsely claiming to be a profession. There is no self-policing of the profession, nor an ethics code. Unions create an automatic conflict with the duties of the job. Are teachers required to report incompetent colleagues? No. Do they? No. Is there reason to think Wisconsin teachers are worse than those elsewhere? They lied about having medical permission to skip classes to protest Walker’s policies. If MOST teachers are trustworthy, why are most students ignorant? Here’s the problem: the job is too difficult for most of the people who choose to do it to do it competently. There are natural teachers, gifted and dedicated, and they are grossly underpaid. They get driven out of the profession. Those who are not gifted, or dedicated, are underqualified, and over-paid. They stay. Thanks to the lousy education THEY receive, a lot of teachers, lots, are insufficiently skilled at critical thinking to teach it to children. Unlike my era is school, the profession is not strengthened by women who were not generally permitted to enter other challenging fields. How many teachers are unqualified by skills, temperament, education, training or character to teach my kid? 60%? 40% 20%? Is it responsible for me to trust a stranger with my child’s mind and future who is 20% likely to be unworthy of that assignment?

              No. I’d trust you, because I have reason to. Most teachers? Untrustworthy.

              • I disagree, but rather than respond in my own words, I’ll post a high school teacher’s thoughts, of which I’m in agreement.

                (Oh, Jack, Stella’s not mad at you… like I was earlier but not now. She’s just trying reason out why you feel this way when, in her experience, and mine, the teachers we know and work with ARE trustworthy.

                “Teachers in general are no more untrustworthy than people in any other profession. Teachers are human, and some humans do bad things. Some police officers commit crimes. Some doctors abuse their patients. There are bad people in every profession and to label a whole group as untrustworthy is wrong.”

                I agree with what you wrote here… “Are teachers required to report incompetent colleagues? No. Do they? No.”

                Still, taking your reasoning in toto, I do not agree that the points you made add up to your conclusion that most teachers are untrustworthy.

                (And speaking of “in toto”, I’ve said it on Medium, and on The Well, and on Electric Minds… that I like hanging with people smarter than me because that’s how I get smarter. This is one of those places. First there was “in toto”. Down the road is “absquatulate”… “to leave somewhere abruptly.”

                I bid you, Jack, a warm fondue. Until next we meet… oh god… seriously, I don’t know what’s come over me… I’ve been reading too much ThunderPuff this morning where I left a bunch of witty (I hope) comments in an effort to boost my own traffic on Medium… I need a smoke. Gby.

        • I can tell you as a teacher that public schools are not well served by federal regulations. Nor does money solve the problem. It’s interesting that the only alternative you mention is Christian schools and that you call them indoctrination centers. It shows a lack of understanding that helps me disregard your rant.

              • They don’t force the Progressive Gospel down your throat, that’s what makes them indoctrination centers in Chris’s view.
                [see, we can play this game too]

                • It really isn’t that hard to Google Betsy Devos and see what she believes. A peek:

                  However, in a 2001 interview for The Gathering, a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, she and her husband offered a rare public glimpse of their views. Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.

                  I find it interesting when the same people who insist that more money towards public education won’t help it improve also insist that more public money be redirected toward private and charter schools.

                  I also find it interesting that no one has offered a reason why Devos is qualified for this position. No one has provided a reasonable metric by which education has gotten worse in this country, nor has anyone suggested a solution. (If you do, make sure that solution doesn’t cost any money, since we’ve already established that money won’t solve anything.)

                  In my staff meetings, we’re told that if we bring up a problem, we also need to be prepared to bring up a solution. I teach my students the same thing.

                  • “I find it interesting when the same people who insist that more money towards public education won’t help it improve also insist that more public money be redirected toward private and charter schools.”

                    It’s not interesting at all.

                    Private sector generally disburses funds far more efficiently and effectively than public sector.

                    Hypothetical: If Public School received $100 and burns 80% of it on administrators, unions, and other superfluous crap not directly involved in teaching, and only 20% of it goes directly to the effort of teaching, and a Private School, because it HAS to be competitive has learned to get rid of waste and therefore manages to expend only 20% on administrators and superfluous crap, then the Private School can achieve with $40 what the public school requires $100 for…

                    If I have an additional $100 to spend, who does it make more sense to toss that money at? The one that will throw away most of it or the one that will use it more profitably for the students involved?

                    The people who insist that more money towards public education not helping, but more towards private would help, are not being inconsistent at all. Just observers of reality. It’s been discussed ad nauseum, Public Education as a measure of $ to results is a colossal failure in the United States.

        • Betsy Vos is a proponent of charter schools which are not exactly “Christian indoctrination center”. They are in the public school system with more parent involvement encouraged. The worst public schools should be closed down and vouchers made available upon demand. NEA opposes this of course to protect lunkhead teachers and administrators.

      • Excuse me. but I’ll bet that you can look at published articles from 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago, and you’ll find headlines about “Our Failing Public Schools.” I think it’s easier to report on the shortcomings of public education that discuss what improvements have been made.

        Three counties in the Washington area–Howard, Montgomery and Fairfax– are among those with the top-rated public schools in the country. Yes, it’s possible to get a good public school education. And yes, there are communities with execrable schools, and yes again, we have the resources but not the public will to improve those schools. Claiming that Washington must provide the remedies is a cop-out. Howard, Montgomery and Fairfax
        succeed because they have enormous community support and political clout with state officials.
        And while we’re on it, I think I have heard Republicans talk about overregulation and high taxes for at least 60 years. Blah, blah, blah.

      • Need to keep in mind that if Churchill did make this statement about public schools, he would have been speaking about English public schools. I’m not sure it translates well to America because the schools he was speaking of would be called elite private schools here.

        • He did not make this statement about public schools. It’s a famous quote about democracy, so famous I am surprised I had to explain it was not an actual quote. (If It were a real quote I’d have put it in quotation marks and said I was quoting him, rather than “taking a page” from him.

          I’ve still seen no evidence that charter schools would be a functional alternative that would suit all American children. They are not designed to do that.

    • It’s much simpler, in the Pitts case. Group A ensures that its members don’t participate in Event B, then Group A member uses absence of said members to impugn event. Unfair, dishonest, wrong.

      Next: Congressional Black Caucus accuses white Republicans of racism because they never ask to join. Just about as fair.

    • Know what it tells me? a) That blacks overwhelmingly vote Democrat (I know, surprise, surprise); b) people of any color who voted for the losing candidate in an election where the winner is such a giant ass, are more likely to sit out the inauguration, and it just so happens that this group disproportionately includes a lot more blacks than not; and c) members of this particular losing side have been acting particularly spiteful in shaming other blacks who dare step out of line and an express an open mind towards Trump. There are a lot of Spike Lees out there who exert an unfortunate amount of sway on easily-influenced people.

      These 3 things add up to a significantly light black presence today. But under your monolithic theory, where apparently blacks collectively lack the privilege to put politics aside (If the privilege is simply tied to skin color, why am I able to? Why are Jim Brown, MLK III, Steve Harvey, Thomas Sowell, and many other not famous, run of the mill blacks that I follow on Twitter able to? And just as importantly, why are, literally, millions of whites, who ALSO boycotted the inauguration, NOT able to put politics aside?)

      I am a black man, who, in theory, can be pulled over and harassed by the cops as easily as my less privileged brethren; and still I, cross my heart, do not care one whit that mentions of civil rights are gone from the White House website. My self worth, nor my belief in the objectiveness and goodness of most cops/judges/mortgage lenders/etc, does not stem from a website. I believe Trump to be many, many bad things; but I do not believe him to be racist against people who look like me (though, you and I likely have vastly different definitions of “racist”), nor do I believe that I, as a result of being black, have any more or less to “lose” in his administration than you do.

      I am not an outlier black, or an exception-to-the-rule black; I am middle-of-the-pack-economically, slightly-above-average-intellectually black, and there are many, many other blacks just like me out there, who simply do not fear the things that well-meaning whites such as yourself think that we fear. And just because we don’t, doesn’t mean we haven’t lived a “genuine” black experience. It simply means that we don’t see ourselves as victims, damsels in need of protection, or in need of “help”. Blacks who believe, as Frederick Douglass did, that a lot of the “help” that has been offered by whites has been belittling (the whole lowered expectations thing), enabling, and at times, detrimental. Blacks that believe, to paraphrase Stephen Covey, “You are not a product of your circumstances, you are a product of your decisions.”

        • Thanks Chris. As always, I really appreciate your perspective. This “white privilege” thing drives me nuts. I think we are all privileged by virtue of what our parents and grandparents have done for us. Privilege is what we do for the benefit of our children and grand children. Privilege is an admirable thing It’s something to which we as parents should aspire. Waiting for the government to handicap (as in horse racing) everyone is not a viable life plan.

          • Thanks OB! I sincerely appreciate your perspective as well. Wish I weren’t the lone (am I?) black who frequents this blog.

    • If the partisan non-white humans, as a self-defined minority group, have more to lose under this administration, they should be participating so that they have a say in what it does, rather than turning away.

      The fact that they don’t know how to recognize that the new administration will listen to them if they engage, nor how to engage, participate in, and influence it constructively, is an indictment on the public school system as I see it. Those group projects were intended to teach students collaboration skills, but apparently were not sufficient.

      How does my logic hold up?

      There are many skills that responsible adults need that they’re not learning by voting age, or sometimes ever, and that means something’s wrong with the system somewhere, even if it’s not schools per se that should teach those skills (though I see no reason why they couldn’t). I’m not at all confident that Trump can fix the education system, but that’s why I’m doing it myself.

    • I’m going to share this brief exchange I believe relevant to the topic.

      Jeffrey, I’ve enjoyed your writings
      You’re a deep thinker
      And a wealth of experience
      But I fail to see the pool of fear from which you drink
      Trump is an enigma riddled with naïveté, but, when one overlooks his brash speech, one can see the glimmer of hope.
      Is it I who bathes in the waters of naïveté ?

      My answer…
      I do have hope, Larry. But my hope is tempered with day-to-day observations coupled with a smattering of history.

      In the early 1930s, the mood in Germany was grim. The worldwide economic depression had hit the country especially hard, and millions of people were out of work. Still fresh in the minds of many was Germany’s humiliating defeat fifteen years earlier during World War I, and Germans lacked confidence in their weak government, known as the Weimar Republic. These conditions provided the chance for the rise of a new leader, Adolf Hitler, and his party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi party for short.

      Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding speaker who attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. He promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany. The Nazis appealed especially to the unemployed, young people, and members of the lower middle class (small store owners, office employees, craftsmen, and farmers).
      I concluded with the following…
      My hope is Trump will drain the swamp. My fear is Trump and company will be a thousand times worse than Obama and his cronies. Obama’s way was the way of the ninja ( a person skilled in ninjutsu, a Japanese martial art characterized by stealthy movement and camouflage). Trump’s way, I predict, will be the way of the strongman (a leader who rules by the exercise of threats, force, or violence).

      I hope I’m wrong.

      • I don’t think we have to worry about the “powerful and spellbinding speaker” part. The remainder of that paragraph, and the preceding, seem to be drawing a parallel between state of Germany at that time and the state of the Unites States now. You did not mention the bands of demobilized soldiers organized into various paramilitary groups fighting for the left or right and murdering the opposition pretty much at will. The United States has problems but they simply are not of the same order of magnitude as those faced by the German people and state at that time. As you did point out, Germany was a relatively new nation that had just undergone a major change in its form of government and was politically very unstable. Unlike Germany at that time, the United States now has a history of about 240 years of constitutional government that has withstood many challenges including a civil war. There is a strong opposition party that simply cannot be gotten out of the way by putting them in camps or assassination, the Hitler approved method of dealing with the opposition. There are a great many things about Trump to dislike, to despise, to worry about, and possibly even to hate, but being Hitler (or Mussolini) is not one of them. Repeatedly presenting Trump as Hitler is a bogeyman. It weakens the impact of real arguments that need to be made against him.

          • Good points made, John. However, due to the intellectual vaccum of the great unwashed on both ends of the political spectrum, I see a real and intense shitstorm coming. Factor in the Womens March, the commuting of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence (which I’d hoped would be addressed in a previous topic but wasn’t… instead it devolved into the rightness or wrongness of Obama’s decision… please, let’s not go there here…, the deep state war against Trump and, as always, the wild card, i.e., expect the unexpected, and you have the proverbial perfect storm on the horizon.

            (And yeah, all this was revealed to me, though not in any detail – just the incoming shitstorm itself in my near death experience several years back… was offered the opportunity to leave and when I begged not to, a voice said I was mashugana. I’m still glad I stayed cause I want to see how things turn out. I’m an ex-newspaper man, after all.)

      • So we now have the Trump might be Hitler argument. Sorry: There is no comparison to what conditions were like in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s where you needed a suitcase full of reichmarks to buy a loaf of bread. Also, you might be aware that the Germans were furious about the terms and reparations imposed upon them when they lost the war. I don’t see any political party in the U.S. that resembles the nazi party either except the left.

  3. Just because I’m curious, did anybody think that Trump’s inaugural address was addressed to them?
    I don’t see this country in dire straits; in fact for the first time in decades, workers’ real take-home income is actually higher. Unemployment is below 5%. The full-time workforce has risen. The levels of reported crime, with a few notable exceptions, have dropped. So has the number of abortions.
    A massive expenditure on public works infrastructure is sorely needed (and how would it be financed?) but if implemented too quickly could put demand for labor high enough that wages would accelerate and heat up consumer spending. Shoppers would stop bargain-hunting and accept higher prices for what they usually buy. if labor remains in short supply, workers would demand higher wages to pay for the overpriced goods. To stem a possible inflationary spiral, the Fed would raise its interest rates, which would dampen commercial loans and home mortgages.
    In other words, things are pretty good right now, but if we diddle too much with the economy we could make it a lot worse.

    • This is refreshing to read, Al, as the general consensus here seems to be that Trump’s dystopic vision of a jobless, crime-riddled America in ruins is basically correct. Unemployment numbers aren’t trusted here. “Good economic news” has been dismissed as propaganda, leftists are blamed for low economic growth after a worldwide recession, and Obamacare has apparently only made peoples’ lives worse, not better. Basically, it’s still the height of recession and conservatives still think it’s 2010.

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